Fence damage charge against elder dismissed
Navajo Times, FEBRUARY 7, 2008
Kykotsmovi, Ariz. - Judge Delfred Leslie
of the Hopi Tribal Court dismissed the criminal charge
of damaging fences against Rena Babbitt Lane on Jan.
25, according to a news release from her lawyer, James
The grounds for dismissal were that
when three Hopi Rangers went to her home on Nov. 4,
2006, they illegally entered the "curtilage"
of the home without a search warrant.
Accordingly, the court was required
to suppress the evidence, consisting of photographs
of footprints and Lane's statements. There was no probable
cause to support the criminal complaint without that
evidence, so the court dismissed the complaint.
The opinion explained that the "curtilage"
or "an area immediately adjacent to a home"
is part of the home for purposes of illegal searches
and seizures under the Indian Civil Rights Act.
In this particular case, the defendant
argued that a Navajo curtilage includes a hogan, shade,
corrals and the area around the home where the earth
The defendant moved the court to suppress
evidence and dismiss on March 24, 2007. The prosecution
and defense filed briefs and the court held oral argument
on April 17, 2007.
The court also issued a May 11, 2007,
notice that the Internal Affairs Division of the BIA's
Office of Law Enforcement Services had requested a copy
of the court file to conduct an investigation into the
Nov. 4, 2006 incident. Lane has not been informed of
the outcome of that investigation.
Zion expressed his appreciation for
the courtesies extended to him and his client by the
court and the prosecution.